Staff Columnist

Iowa politicians scream 'Bias!' in underfunded classrooms

The Iowa Capitol is seen in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
The Iowa Capitol is seen in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

Statehouse politicians are taking aim at political bias. In other news, mosquitoes are opposed to itch and irritation.

State Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge, has introduced legislation requiring local public schools, community colleges and universities to establish an appeal process for students who feel a teacher’s “political bias” affected their grade. SF 2057, cleared a subcommittee Tuesday, making it eligible for debate in the Education Committee.

The Gazette’s Vanessa Miller first reported on the bill Tuesday, noting Kraayebrink’s insistence that bias is a problem according to folks who have called him or who told him personal stories. He contends this isn’t a Republican or Democratic thing, because the bias process would protect all.

But make no mistake, “Bias!” is mostly a conservative battle cry. The 2-1 subcommittee vote was along party lines, with Kraayenbrink and Sen. Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, voting yes. It’s instructive that the only group registered in favor of the bill is the Family Leader, the social conservative organization famous for opposing LGBTQ civil rights and assailing judges who affirm them.

A much longer list of groups are opposed, including the Urban Education Network, the School Administrators of Iowa, the Iowa State Education Association, the Iowa Association of School Boards and the ACLU of Iowa, among others. University and community college officials say they already have academic appeal processes in place.

So is this really a problem? Instead of data, we have anecdotes. Always be wary of government by “I know a guy.” Too often, sweeping legislation affecting regulations, tax policy and other issues with implications for the many are spawned by gripes of the few. The few often have fat checkbooks.

Do educators have biases? Of course, at least until we develop robot teachers. Grading disputes happen, for myriad reasons, and they’re usually handled without Statehouse intervention.

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But I bet real intent of this bill is to put teachers on notice, and make them think twice about engaging students on issues seen as too political. Watch what you say. Watch what you teach. Don’t discuss anything too controversial. Play it safe. Otherwise its liberal indoctrination.

When preparing a lesson plan, always ask, “What would Mr. and Mrs. MAGA think?”

Because what “Bias!” has really become is a get-out-of-discussion-free card. Hear an argument you disagree with, but have no solid counter-argument of your own? Scream “Bias!” and it’s all over. Case closed. I said good day.

Do we really want schools where kids’ view of the world at 14 goes unchallenged amid fears that a teacher might have to face the bias tribunal?

And what a wonderful time it is to be a public school teacher, thanks to the Golden Dome of Wisdom.

In 2017, lawmakers gutted your collective bargaining rights. But be sure to be grateful for the “historic” state funding increases barely keeping up with inflation and still requiring you to buy classroom materials with your own money. How else will we pay for more tax cuts? And stop getting so agitated when Republicans talk about taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools.

Not so wonderful, you say? Bias!

(319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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